This High Court case deals with the constitutional obligation of the South African government to promote basic education by securing timely appointment and funding of educators at all public schools.
The second edition of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) presents the latest evidence on global progress towards the education targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With hundreds of millions of people still not going to school, and many not achieving minimum skills at school, it is clear education systems are off track to achieve global goals. The marginalised currently bear the most consequences but also stand to benefit the most if policy-makers pay sufficient attention to their needs. Faced with these challenges, along with tight budgets and increased emphasis on results-oriented value for money, countries are searching for solutions. Increased accountability often tops the list.
The 2017/8 GEM Report shows the entire array of approaches to accountability in education. It ranges from countries unused to the concept, where violations of the right to education go unchallenged, to countries where accountability has become an end in itself instead of a means to inclusive, equitable and high-quality education and lifelong learning for all.
The report emphasises that education is a shared responsibility. While governments have primary responsibility, all actors – schools, teachers, parents, students, international organizations, private sector providers, civil society and the media – have a role in improving education systems. The report emphasises the importance of transparency and availability of information but urges caution in how data are used. It makes the case for avoiding accountability systems with a disproportionate focus on narrowly defined results and punitive sanctions. In an era of multiple accountability tools, the report provides clear evidence on those that are working and those that are not.
The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence tries to determine why 15-year-old boys are more likely than girls, on average, to fail to attain a baseline level of proficiency in reading, mathematics and science, and why high-performing 15-year-old girls still underachieve in areas such as mathematics, science and problem solving when compared to highperforming boys. In 2012, 14% of boys and 9% of girls surveyed by the PISA exercise did not attain the PISA baseline level of proficiency in any of the three core subjects. On the other hand, in the top-performing economies in PISA, such as Shanghai-China, Singapore, Hong Kong-China and Chinese Taipei, girls perform on a par with their male classmates in mathematics and attain higher scores in mathematics than boys in most other countries and economies around the world.
As the evidence in the report makes clear, gender disparities in performance do not stem from innate differences in aptitude, but rather from students’ attitudes towards learning and their behaviour in school, from how they choose to spend their leisure time, and from the confidence they have–or do not have–in their own abilities as students. In fact, the report shows that the gender gap in literacy proficiency narrows considerably–and even disappears in some countries–among young men and women in their late teens and 20s. Giving boys and girls an equal opportunity to realise their potential demands the involvement of parents, who can encourage their sons and daughters to read; teachers, who can encourage more independent problem solving among their students; and students themselves, who can spend a few more of their after-school hours 'unplugged'.
This comprehensive report presents the results of the Ninth Consultation of UNESCO’s Member States on the implementation of UNESCO’s Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education. Launched in 2016, this consultation involved 67 UNESCO Member States. The information contained in the national reports generally provides an extremely valuable resource for research and analysis, experience-and knowledge-sharing, and ultimately advocacy.
An interesting finding of the report is that countries seized on this periodic reporting exercise as a valuable opportunity to outline the challenges they face and to take stock of progress and reflect on how to overcome difficulties. The report highlights that the challenges are often crosscutting and intersectoral, making them more difficult to address.
In particular, the report points out serious challenges with regard to equity and inclusion. Socio-economic factors, poverty, ethnicity, location and gender account for significant patterns of discrimination and exclusion in education. Persistent harmful practices and attitudes stand in the way of many children and adults and deprive them of meaningful educational opportunities.
Difficulties relating to the quality of education were equally widely shared by countries, along with budgetary constraints and sometimes lack of governance, coordination and monitoring capacities.
The report also exemplifies the various measures adopted at the national level to ensure that education is provided to all in a discrimination-free environment. The report notably shares the positive measures reported by countries to guarantee inclusion in education, notably for girls and women, refugees, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, which is critical to advance SDG4.
In South Africa, SECTION27 has used rights-based strategies, including litigation, to hold the state accountable for not ensuring the procurement and delivery of textbooks to schools across Limpopo, a poor rural area of the country.
This case involves the interpretation of the scope of the constitutional right in South Africa to basic education and in particular whether the provision of school textbooks to all basic education learners for the whole academic year is an essential component of this right.
There has been renewed and amplified interest in learning outcomes as a tool for improving quality of education – an issue of central focus in the Post-2015 discussions. There are numerous learning outcomes assessment tools and methodologies. However, missing from the debates is a human rights perspective. This briefing document, Learning Outcomes Assessments: A Human Rights Perspective, seeks to highlight the key human rights principles that should inform education policies on learning outcomes to ensure that these tools are used to promote quality education that develops the child’s personalities, talents, and abilities to live a full and satisfying life within society. It also provides recommendations to policy-makers to ensure that education policies on learning outcomes adhere to human rights standards.
In 2018, the international community will meet to adopt a new Global Compact on Refugees; a product of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The Compact promises that ‘all refugee children will be in school and learning within a few months of arrival’ and commits to ‘prioritise budgetary provision to facilitate this, including support for host countries as required’. The opportunity to advance this agenda is now. However, commitments without actionable plans do not deliver results.
The report ‘Time to act: a costed plan to deliver quality education to every last refugee child’ sets out a realistic, global plan to ensure refugee children get to go to school. Save the children challenges governments and international agencies to deliver on the promises they have made with practical action.